The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Vote to Waive Regulation Requiring Union Approval of Accountability Plan for the Bentley Academy Charter School (Horace Mann)

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
January 12, 2018

The regulations for charter schools (regulations) specify that all "requests to amend the material terms of a school's charter must be voted on by the board of trustees and approved by the Commissioner or the Board before change is implemented." 603 CMR 1.10. The regulations define a charter school accountability plan as a material term of a school's charter and changes to such plans require Commissioner approval. 603 CMR 1.10(2)(f). Further, the regulations state that amendment requests, such as accountability plan amendments, sought by "Horace Mann I and III [charter schools] require the approval of the local collective bargaining unit and the local school committee prior to the submission of such requests to the Department [of Elementary and Secondary Education]." 603 CMR 1.10(4)(b).

Bentley Academy Charter School (BACS), a Horace Mann charter school in Salem, is seeking a waiver of the charter school regulations requiring approval by the local collective bargaining unit of its accountability plan. A letter from BACS is attached. In its letter, the school outlines the reasons for its request. I recommend that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) grant this waiver for reasons specified below.

Bentley Academy Charter School
Type of CharterHorace Mann IIILocationSalem
Regional or Non-RegionalNon-RegionalDistricts in RegionN/A
Year Opened2015Year(s) RenewedN/A
Maximum Enrollment3502016-17 Enrollment261
Chartered Grade SpanK-5Current Grade SpanK-5
Students on Waitlist23Current Age of school3 years

Mission Statement:

Bentley Academy Charter School prepares all of its students for personal and academic success to get to and through college. Through a combination of high academic standards, data-derived instructional methods, and community supports and partnerships, Bentley Academy Charter School establishes the critical foundation necessary for students to thrive as they advance in their academic careers.

In 2011, the Bentley Elementary School, the predecessor of BACS, was identified as a Level 4 school under the state's accountability system and was placed on a turnaround plan in 2012. During the 2014-2015 school year, the Bentley Elementary School operated as two programs, a K-2 program operated by the Salem Public Schools District and a 3-5 program operated by Blueprint Schools Network under turnaround/restart plans approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department). The programs had distinct principals and faculty but shared specialists to support the needs of students with disabilities and English language learners.

Additionally, during the 2014-2015 school year, Salem School Committee selected the Bentley Elementary School for "restart" as a Horace Mann III charter school. The district applied for a Horace Mann III1 charter with the intention to serve grades K-5 for the 2015-2016 school year. The Board granted the applicant group a charter in February 2015. Bentley Academy Charter School began operation in fall 2015.

Based on the school's 2016 accountability data, the school was classified as Level 1 in the 24th percentile.

Request for a Waiver of the Charter School Regulations

During the 2015-2016 school year, BACS worked closely with the Department to create its accountability plan. BACS received provisional approval of the plan from the Department in August 2016 and approval of the plan from the Salem School Committee on December 5, 2016. Since October 2016, BACS has diligently sought approval of its accountability plan from the Salem Teachers Union. In June 2017, BACS received communication from the union that the Salem Teachers Union had "no statutory mandate to approve the plan" and would take no action on the matter.

If it grants a waiver of the charter school regulations at 603 CMR 1.10(4)(b), the Board would allow the school to operate with an accountability plan approved by the school committee and the Department. Without a waiver, the school would lack the key document that outlines its mission-driven goals for its first charter term and to which the Department and the Board hold the school accountable for its continued existence.

I recommend that the Board vote to grant the waiver to BACS given the school's attempts to gain union approval of the plan and the importance of the accountability plan to the school's continued existence. A motion is attached.

If you have any questions regarding this matter or require additional information, please contact Alison Bagg, Director (781-338-3218); Cliff Chuang, Senior Associate Commissioner (781-338-3222); or me.


Download PDF Document
Bentley Academy Charter School Request for a Waiver